I Didn’t Know about Mental Illness until I Did By Liz Freedlander

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For most of my life, like many of my friends and family, I knew hardly anything about mental illness until I started a consulting relationship for a few hours a month with Channel Marker. This piece about my experience has been writing itself in my head for a while.

I have had my heart broken open by the people who Channel Marker serves. I now know about persons diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness and their families. Please read these words again: SEVERE and PERSISTENT. You can often tell by looking that people living with mental illness do not fit our definition of normal. We want to look away. I don’t look away any more because I now know about mental illness.

The chemistry of the brain of mentally ill persons usually has been changed. In some cases, by exposure to terrible things as a child that have resulted in PTSD. All this time, I thought PTSD was relegated to war experiences. Channel Marker does serve war veterans. (One Vietnam vet still hears the screams of men and the sounds of gun-fire). It also serves children and youth diagnosed with PTSD.

Many of these ill persons suffer from schizophrenia, often occurring out of the blue while in their twenties. They hear voices or have visual hallucinations – often – sometimes constantly.

During a conversation at the Channel Marker Holiday Party, one of these young men and I were having a pleasant conversation when he apologized for wearing his sunglasses. He said, “They help me with the voices.” This was once a young boy, like any young boy, who grew up riding bikes with pals in his neighborhood and enjoying family vacations. Now, he can look a little scary.

For some reason the tattoos, including the one in the middle of his forehead, give him meaning in his difficult life. He is polite and sweet and has a sense of humor. He religiously takes his meds although the side effects make him feel debilitated. They help him cope.

I have met parents. The heartache never goes away. One mother said, “The stigma of mental illness makes me feel as if my son spends each day out in the middle of a field where he is pecked to death.” One father’s sadness was palpable as he explained that his son does not take his meds so his symptoms, out of control, make it very difficult to have a relationship.  Still this father  faithfully makes an effort. You can see the pain in this man’s eyes as he describes the vibrant young man with a blossoming career who was once his son.

Lisa is a grown woman whose children live with other families. She has pretty red hair like I once did. She has PTSD with symptoms of chronic depression and anxiety disorders. She told me her life story. I cried. Her childhood with a cruel, narcissistic mother portended poor choices of men in her life. The ultimate result was fleeing for her own survival from a marriage so abusive that she had to leave her children behind with their father. She mourns the loss of her kids. I leave it to your imagination as to what might be part of her story – when she wears a skirt, she always wears pants under it. Her anxiety causes her to be unable to work in an environment where she might be alone with a man.

But this is not the totality of my experience. I have experienced hope and help delivered in the most compassionate and professional manner by Channel Marker. While mental illness may not be curable; it is treatable. The caring staff see beyond the illness into the hearts and personhood of their clients. They provide emotional support, life-skills, goal setting, job-training and placement, triage for health problems, places to live, a peer group and just plain normal laughter. There are success stories.

Only the brave and the optimistic can do this work every day. I think they are heroes. Marty Cassell, a therapist who has worked at Channel Marker for 25 years and a married father of four boys, is tall and attractive but rarely smiles. I asked him one day if the work is heavy. He said, “I love my work because I can see positive changes in my clients. Do you know that in addition to my day job here at Channel Marker, I work evenings for Mid-shore Council on Family Violence to provide one-to-one counseling for battered women. I also have a support group for men who are batterers.” He answered my question.

There are victories to be celebrated because of Marty and his colleagues at Channel Marker. Lisa who lost her children is strong and clear about her past and her future. Her goal is to have a job in an agricultural setting and be an advocate for sustainable farming. She has poured her maternal love into her cats and has a fiancé. She is a student at Chesapeake College and was recently invited to take an honors course. She, like many others, credit their successes to Channel Marker.

Channel Marker annually serves about 400 individuals almost 50% of whom are ages 21 and younger, in Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.

Liz Freedlander has been a resident of Talbot County for 41 years. She was executive director of Talbot Hospice from 1990 to 2004 and recently retired as director of development from the Horn Point Laboratory after 10 years. She has been a fundraising consultant to a number of local nonprofits. Liz has been raising money for nonprofits since the age of 9 when she canvassed her neighborhood with a tin can and collected $5.94 for the Baltimore Symphony.

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Exelon: Analysis Shows Conowingo Revenues Insufficient to Fund Additional Sediment Mitigation

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Providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity has been the paramount focus for Exelon Generation and the Conowingo Dam for the last 90 years.

In December 2017, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy released a statement and accompanying report by Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) that incorrectly assessed the economic status of the Conowingo Dam. The NorthBridge Group, performed a detailed analysis of the E3 report and found that the E3 conclusions are fundamentally flawed due to a gross over-estimation of the future revenues of the Conowingo Dam.

The E3 report inaccurately inflates future revenues in two ways. First, the report greatly overestimates the dam’s capacity revenue, which Conowingo earns for being available as an electricity resource. The dam’s capacity revenue going forward is expected to be roughly 80 percent less than the E3 report estimate. Second, the report bases Conowingo’s future revenues on 2013 energy prices, which are much higher than today’s prices and expected future energy prices. Energy prices in the market available to Conowingo were 30-45 percent lower in 2016 and 2017 versus 2013, yet the E3 report ignored this fact.

When the E3 analysis is run using current information, the analysis demonstrates that Conowingo’s revenues are not even high enough to cover costs plus an adequate return, let alone sufficient to fund additional contributions for sediment. Conowingo provides significant benefits to the region, as confirmed by more than 50 studies since 2010.

As a member of the Chesapeake Bay community, Exelon Generation remains steadfast in our commitment to helping identify the most effective ways to address the health of the Bay.

Exelon Generation
Kennett Square, PA

 

NorthBridge Group Report

Be the Light by Nancy Mugele

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Not a creature is stirring at my house after a heartwarming week of laughter and loud conversations amidst endless loads of dishes and laundry. The last bird flew out this morning and truth be told I am feeling a bit melancholy. For 30 years of married life Jim and I always hoped to raise children of character and integrity who would one day lead independent lives of purpose. Somehow we have managed to do just that – despite a few bumps and detours along the way.

Now, having our children pop in and out of our lives for precious bits of time is both awe-inspiring and bittersweet. The girls and I took our annual trip to NYC right before Christmas and enjoyed our day of sight-seeing, light-seeing and fun. Jenna, always a thoughtful gift giver, surprised me and Kelsy with tickets to see the Rockettes at Radio City. It was spectacular! James arrived this year with presents for everyone that he had made himself. Creative and thoughtful and totally surprising! I helped Kelsy by purchasing and wrapping a few of the gifts she gave to family members, but don’t tell anyone.

The chaos when they are all here with us in Chestertown is invigorating and I greatly enjoy sharing my love through cooking. (I would not mind help cleaning the kitchen once in a while though!) On Christmas Day Jim’s family arrived to help us celebrate and we had our traditional lasagna dinner.  Today, as I finish eating the leftovers and begin the holiday clean up, I do feel a little sad to be alone on the river. Fortunately, this is the season of lights so my house is brightly decorated even at mid-day. I know the lights are telling me to smile and find joy in the memories made this Christmas.

‘Tis the season for several religious celebrations where light is a central tenet. Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa all share a joyful feast with family and loved ones. Kwanzaa and Hanukkah include the lighting of candles on consecutive nights (Kwanzaa has 7 candles and Hanukkah has 9), while Christmas is the culmination of the weekly lighting of 4 Advent candles in December. Christmas also includes a decorated tree with lights. This year I received a gift of two bayberry candles from a former Kent School family and was introduced to their bayberry candle tradition. The legend is that if you burn your bayberry candle on Christmas or New Year’s Eve it will bring blessings of abundance in the coming year. I love candles and really appreciated this thoughtful and meaningful gift. We burned ours on Christmas night with all of our extended family present – hope it still works!

In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare wrote: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” I have been thinking about these words all morning as I have been storing the Christmas china, washing stemware and vacuuming poinsettia leaves, while my Lodestone Holiday Hearth candle fills my senses with orange, ginger, and balsam. While I am not one for resolutions, in this quiet moment in my empty house, I have decided to be the light for others in the coming year and find ways to celebrate good deeds at my school and in my community. Will you join me?

And while my own children have returned to Baltimore, Nashville and Denver, I am so blessed to have 141 children who attend Kent School to fill my heart with light and good as we welcome the New Year this weekend. All the best in 2018!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Exelon’s Share for Mitigation on the Conowingo Dam by Tom Zolper

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The Conowingo Dam 20 miles north of the mouth of the Susquehanna River has been the focus of scientific scrutiny and concern since the 1990s, and public worry for the past five years. The reason is simple: the pond behind the dam that trapped dirt for decades now has filled up.

More of the dirt (also called sediment) and phosphorus clinging to the dirt are reaching downstream water. In addition, storms scour sediment and associated nutrients from the pond and flush it downstream.

These additional pollutant loads are a problem because we already have too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay – from farms, sewage plants, and other sources. These chemicals are plant food, causing algae blooms that suck oxygen from the water when they die and decompose. The added sediment coming through the dam also is a concern for effects on downstream habitats.

When Bay states and the federal government agreed in 2010 to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake —the so-called Bay pollution diet—they thought we had more time to deal with the situation at the Conowingo. We don’t. What to do?

In 2015 the U.S. Army Corps said the most cost-effective solution was to reduce pollution reaching the dam from upstream in Pennsylvania and New York. Governor Hogan has also proposed a small $4 million pilot program to see if dredging at the pond could also be a part of the solution.

Whatever is determined to be the best solution or set of solutions, one thing is clear: it will cost more money. That’s why a new report commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) offers some good news: The owner of the dam can help chip in.

The report, “An Economic Analysis of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station,” concluded Exelon can afford to contribute $27 million to $44 million a year to help fix or mitigate the problem and still make a healthy profit. The study used publicly available finance numbers about Exelon’s operations at the dam, as well as standard industry information. It was prepared for Water Power Law Group and CBF and TNC but researched and written by Energy+Environmental Economics in California. Exelon to date has offered to contribute only $200,000.

The company shouldn’t be responsible for the whole solution. It didn’t cause pollution from upstream farms, sewage plants and other sources to discharge into the Susquehanna and flow downstream.

While it is important to hold Exelon accountable for the impact of the dam on downstream water quality and habitat, it’s important to keep the Conowingo issue in context. First, the impacts of the lost trapping capacity and scouring during storm events are significant but not catastrophic. In fact, as the situation at the dam has worsened for the past few years, the water quality in the Bay has steadily been improving.

Also, studies show that the slug of new pollution moving past the dam will cause effects primarily on the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay. Most rivers that feed the Bay such as the Choptank, Nanticoke and others will not be impacted, nor will the thousands of fresh water streams in Maryland. Local counties and communities will remain responsible for cleaning up pollution in their backyards.

So, we can’t blame Conowingo for all our water woes. The dam is only one of many problems we face trying to clean up the Bay. But we can ask Exelon to do its share, just as we ask everyone else to pitch in. We know the company can afford it.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Virtue of Slow By Tom Horton

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My bike has but one speed, unfashionable in a high-geared, tech-fueled world that now affords cyclists push-button shifting through a range of gears sufficient to conquer the Alps and pass Porsches.

Single-speeding is limiting — but also liberating. It makes you respect the lay of the land, seek the gentler slopes that meander alongside the hills, value the wooded corridors that block headwinds. Your pedaling becomes more efficient, your legs stronger. There is more to the joy of bicycling than more gears, more mileage, higher speeds.

The virtues of slow are especially relevant now to saving the Chesapeake Bay and the larger environment, as Congress debates major tax reforms based on a single, awful premise: We must grow the economy faster and bigger than ever.

“We face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. But his tax plan will add an acknowledged $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion to national indebtedness. It’s the only way “to get faster economic growth,” Ryan said. And “faster economic growth is necessary for us to get our debt under control.”

Never mind the circularity of that argument, or the fact that economists across the political spectrum think the level of growth Republicans are counting on is unachievable. The real dirty secret is that virtually no one on either side of the political aisle thinks that roaring faith-based growth would be undesirable; just unrealistic.

But environmentally, such growth would be disastrous, as will be Congress’s all-out, desperate attempts to achieve it if the tax package passes with its present, pedal-to-the-metal economic expansionism — think repeal of regulations, fast-tracking fossil fuel energy projects, suppressing troublesome climate science.

And what’s bad for the planet is bad for the Chesapeake, where a warming climate and sea level rise threaten wetlands, water quality and habitat. Plus, even under the best of circumstances we’re going to be hard-pressed to meet air and water quality goals by 2025.

And, environmental success is linked to economics as surely as my rear wheel is chained to my pedals.

The day may come when we achieve the inspiring vision articulated by green architect and designer William McDonough: “Imagine they announce a major new mall and your reaction is, ‘great’ that will mean cleaner air and water and more habitat for wildlife.”

In the meantime, despite progress in greening our economy, we still can’t grow without a negative impact on air and water, without depleting the habitats and natural resources we share with a shrinking array of other species, without adding to climate change.

And we scarcely even know how to hold a meaningful conversation about the broad implications of economic growth and environmental quality. Nor how to talk about the very real alternatives to high growth, and the benefits of steady-state economies that put no premium on growth at all.

An economy not devoted to growth is usually disparaged in grow-or-die terms, but it is more about quality over quantity. It emphasizes moderation of the rampant depletion of natural resources or filling the air and water with wastes like carbon dioxide. Education, innovation, community, time to ride a bicycle — all these can still grow. Population would not need to.

We need such conversations — not just because of growth’s environmental impacts — but because uncritically chasing after high growth as the path to greater national well-being is a dead-end strategy.

Consider the 4- to 6-percent annual economic growth projections spouted wishfully by supporters of current tax reforms — the way Congress pledges to atone for all the loss of revenue.

There were several decades where growth did come at least near the current, wild projections, writes economist Robert J. Gordon in his epic, The Rise and Fall of American Growth (2016; Princeton University Press).

But that ended by the 1970s, and was fueled by truly fundamental innovations, such as the automobile, the electrification of the United States and antibiotics, as well as the kind of world-shaking events we always capitalize: World War II and the New Deal that followed the Great Depression.

That period is not repeatable, Gordon and others argue, and the modest economic growth of recent decades bears him out. Productivity, or output per unit of labor and capital, is key to real growth, and it has been comparatively sluggish for decades.

But Congress persists in chasing high growth like an old dog that in puppyhood found something gloriously stinky to roll in, then revisits the spot daily with undiminished expectation.

An old dog may be indulged, but the crew in the U.S. Capitol would profoundly change our economy, environment be damned, addicted to growth that can’t happen.

Let them ride single-speeds.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, MD, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University.

Bake Love by Nancy Mugele

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I was four years old in 1965 when political activists Penelope and Franklin Rosemont and Tor Faegre helped to make popular the anti-Vietnam war phrase Make Love, Not War by printing thousands of buttons at the Solidarity Bookshop in Chicago and distributing them at the Mother’s Day Peace March. Although I was very young when the phrase was created I remember using the phrase a lot as a teenager. I had a poster in my bedroom with the words in pop-Art lettering reminiscent of all things flower-power related.

Today, as a fifty-something I have decided to coin a new phrase while borrowing from the 1960s. Bake Love. Especially at this time of year when family bakers are busy preparing traditional Christmas or Hanukkah cookies, pies, cakes, yule logs, etc. For, after all, isn’t baking really about sharing your love.

When I was growing up my Italian Nana made every dinner a celebration. Her dishes always tasted more delicious than what I ate at home. I believed it was because she “cooked with love” and I repeated that often to my own mother’s annoyance. I thought Nana’s famous tuna fish salad was definitely mixed with love because no one else could make tuna taste as good. (Years later I discovered Nana used Miracle Whip and not mayonnaise but I am still sticking with the “made with love” story.) Her homemade chicken soup always made me feel better and it had a little kick that could not quite be replicated. The last time I watched Nana make it I caught her dumping an entire small tin of McCormick finely ground pepper right in. That was the secret!

It was the holiday baking, however, that always filled my heart. The scent of anise in her biscottis, the toasted sesame seeds on her giuggiulena, the soft Italian wedding cookies with frosting and colored sprinkles I always got for my Thanksgiving birthday, and the thin, crispy waffle-like pizzelles dusted with powdered sugar that I could eat one after the other.  I could go on but I cannot type at the moment as there are tears forming in my eyes. I miss her every year during this special season.

Jenna definitely got her baking talents, but when Kelsy was in high school she made the Italian wedding cookies for a bake-off at school. I was kicked out of the kitchen as I was trying to hurry her along by helping with the frosting. Apparently, I did not know how to do it correctly. All on her own, Kelsy won the blue ribbon. That ribbon proudly hung on our refrigerator door for years. It reminded me, after my grandmother passed, that traditional food recipes must be written down so they will never be lost. What would the family table be like without the love inherent in family dishes prepared in exactly the same way for generations.

I prefer handwritten recipe cards and have a book that contains recipes from both my side and Jim’s side of our family. I am so fortunate to have recipes written in my grandmother’s own handwriting. Treasures I will never part with. I also have recipes written by Jim’s mother. Trudy was a wonderful cook but I could never understand her recipe filing system. She filed pot roast under M for meat and a special chocolate cake recipe under M for the last name of the neighbor who gave her the recipe. But, her Christmas butter cookies were filed under C.

I love that Jenna and Kelsy and their cousin, Amanda, have established an annual Christmas cookie baking tradition with their Aunt Ann. They set the date at Thanksgiving and they all look forward to making the traditional butter cookies with red and green sugar sprinkles that my late mother-in-law always made each year. Carrying on the Mugele family tradition and baking with love.

There is no better way to celebrate the joyous holiday season than to Bake Love! Anyone want to help me print some buttons?

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

“Talk Sense to a Fool and He Calls you Foolish” by Joseph Prud’homme

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When the moral perversity of the Hollywood culture-crats is bemoaned by modern liberals, I can’t help but exclaim, in the same way, Dionysus replied to Pentheus in the classic play The Bacchae: wisdom is foolish—most especially to a fool.

How foolish it was to think the very same men who gave us Magic Mike and Bad Moms—obscene filth with degraded trash on nearly every scene—could be paragons of moral virtue. Sleaze is what sleaze does. Only the fool fails to see.

Yet, mugged by recalcitrant reality (to paraphrase Irving Kristol), liberalism’s leading lights now denounce the predations of Harvey Weinstein and similarly sleazy scoundrels. But, I hasten to ask, how can liberals denounce with moral or intellectual consistency the depraved actions of Weinstein and his Hollywood hoodlums yet still praise the vile porn these men push in the malls and cineplexes, from Seattle to Sarasota? They can do so only by becoming even greater fools.

The greatest of fools, in fact.

Indeed, it was Chelsea Clinton’s favorite hack-site, Common Sense Media—a Hollywood-celebrating “review” rag purporting to “improve[e] the media landscape for kids and families”—that suborned moms to see the disgusting skin flick Bad Christmas Moms 2 with their teenage daughters. Yet Chelsea Clinton lionizes the (often quite necessary) #Metoo advocacy ascendant in the cultural zeitgeist.

It’s high time liberals not only decry the sexual perversities of the men who run the Hollywood movie houses, but also decry the very filth these men spew in theatres across the country. To condemn one without the other is to be blind to the toxic culture Hollywood pedals—and the negative consequences the smut they merchandize has on our nation’s moral conscience.

The pop-Media moguls and all the politicos dependent on their ill-gotten cash will no doubt cast me a prude for asserting a tight nexus between the smut these men pander and the vice these ogres live. However, the social science data on mainstream smut is staggering. Social psychologist Ross O’Hara, for example, has documented that highly sexualized content—especially when created or viewed in a mainstream setting and in the normalized context of a close circle of friends—has a powerful impact on one’s sense of propriety and forges sexual scripts in the minds of makers and viewers that heighten risks for aggressive and offensive behavior.

These men on the tops of the Hollywood Hills scarcely do much more than rehash smut upon smut upon smut. That that they should be smutty scumbags themselves only heightens a truism we all used to know, before these Titans of Titillation convinced us otherwise: “monkey see”—your mother, your minister, your teacher knew too well—“monkey do.” Indeed, it was no unctuous preachiness that led St. Paul to instruct all individuals of moral seriousness to “set one’s eyes on higher things.”

Proverbs, moreover, tells us that “doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” “Oh, it’s all escapist fun; it’s simply raunchy humor”:

The last refuge of a Hollywood porn pusher—and a sexual harasser—or worse. Proverbs, however, also reminds us that “the wise will inherit honor, but fools only get disgrace.”

Better words scarcely have been spoken.

Joseph Prud’homme is a professor at Washington College, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. He lives with his wife and family in Easton, Maryland. 

From South of Left Field: Trajectory – Be the Message by Jimmie Galbreath

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Life, governments, societies, and organizations are all moving constantly along a trajectory. People have trajectories too. Since the only constant is change, we have no choice but to follow some kind of evolving path. Like the shark, we must remain in motion to live.

Much has been made of voting to ‘send a message.’ I have a question for the reader. Given a choice would you rather cast a single vote as a message or actually be the message yourself every day?

Not marching all over the place carrying signs, not writing innumerable emails and letters, not making phone calls or canvassing. Make yourself the message around the clock by making occasional single acts which combined with many others can become an irresistible force in politics. No worries about tear gas, police violence or arrest. It doesn’t take much time out of your life and calls for only a slight effort on voting day and a little attention in between. Write only when you wish and march only if inspired.

This path has not been followed in over one hundred years. It is a new experience, and it would scare the bejesus out of Washington and all the lap dogs that populate it. It isn’t illegal, in fact, it is what the Founding Fathers envisioned so long ago.

I am tired of living on the political treadmill that has been created by the politicians to wear us out and divert us. The very fact that so many of us want to be heard and yet feel that we aren’t important is telling us something. Stop thinking about it and just listen to your gut reactions. If you share my feelings of despair, anger, and disgust and find yourselves seized by a sense of helplessness, then we are together.

Our government is made of two parties that, like the laws they vote on, have so woven the turds with the tulips that it seems nothing generally desirable ever makes it into law. The issues thrown out by these parties are an artful balance that keeps us focused on just one thing because we have been conditioned to believe that only one thing can ever be done at a time. Since when are we so mentally deficient that we can’t see a larger picture? Why would any of us choose to believe that? Are we really completely satisfied with a sound bite or a meme? Have we been trained that well? I don’t believe it!

The growing anger and activism by both ends of the imaginary line the politicians play on reflect the gut sense that we are being betrayed. Let me say again, the IMAGINARY line. Right wing and left wing. Who decided this? The desire to have a path for going up the ladder isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘left’ anything. The desire to have a way to support our children going to college or training a marketable skill isn’t a right or left thing. Improving our safety by replacing desperation with hope isn’t a right or left thing. Who else feels manipulated? Who actually trusts a politician? I stepped outside my world for a moment and realized that I didn’t trust them, yet I listened to them and voted for them. I felt foolish.

How many of you have ever picked a candidate before they appeared in front of you in a primary? Who picked them? Why were they picked?

Our political system like our stock market is rigged to favor the elite class and restrain us. We can play at them but the game is rigged to favor the upper class. Occasionally someone breaks the ceiling, but it happens less and less. Does this image ring true to you? If these words paint a picture that feels true then what do we do with it? How can it be changed?

The laws and actions that fill the news can be changed. Every tax, every law, every regulation can be changed or reserved by those who have votes in Congress. Even the way the weaving of turds and tulips is done can be prevented by new laws. Our problem as common citizens is that we don’t have an organization free of control by the upper class to listen to us. The biggest problem is that we have been taught to wait on ‘the party’ to put up a candidate. We have been taught to wait on a leader to step forward. Don’t look to any other organizations outside the Republican or Democratic parties to respond to us no matter how they actually don’t respond to us. Do you feel they respond to you?

A new trajectory requires a new organization. Both parties today are dealing with ‘progressive’ movements that garnered the support of people screaming for something new. Both groups of ‘new’ voters rose like a newly formed and young army, and both are bleeding out their energy and focus by assaulting the existing organizations head-on. I don’t believe reforming these parties will yield results. They belong to the upper class, they are supported by the upper class, and they have a long, long history of going against the common voter on behalf of the upper class. It is sad to say we can’t outvote them with dollars. Income inequality is making sure of that. We can however out vote them. It is our only real power.

We need to deny these parties the only thing we have that they cannot do without. Votes. Find another party and join it. Join it in large numbers and use your votes within the party to select the new leaders that will step forward. Organize where the elite class has not established itself, then deny them entry. Don’t be put off by the quality of the old candidates because they can be replaced by new leaders who will follow the votes or arise from the new organization.

Find a party and be the message by not belonging to the old parties. Be dedicated to the new and don’t support the old. Remain firm in the new party and vote for it wherever you can. A large shift in registration and voting will drive change. Courage and focus by us all can shake Washington to the very ground. Don’t allow yourselves to be limited by just one issue. Hold a wider vision and reject anyone who says you can’t get more than one thing at a time. Be the message. Be the change.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

2018: The Dawn of America’s Hereditary Aristocracy? by Tom Timberman

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Contrasting Great Britain with America in 1776, Tom Paine said it’s the difference between “hereditary rights and the rights of man” and again, between “the privileges of class versus the equality of all before the law”

Introduction:

The tax legislation pending in the US Congress, scheduled for possible passage before the end of December, reflects a curious change in “democratic” America’s attitude towards wealth, class and their relationship to political power. This legislative path also contrasts markedly to that of the monarchical United Kingdom.  The British Government’s use of inheritance (and income) taxes to slow and then halt the continuation of a hereditary aristocracy would seem to depart sharply from that chosen by the present Congress.

United States

          President Teddy Roosevelt, son of rich parents, was a strong supporter of instituting a US inheritance tax, which he characterized as “…an instrument for enforcing equality of opportunity in the United States by making it difficult to pass great fortunes from one generation to another.”  In 1916, seven years after he left office, Congress passed an income tax and what are called “transfer taxes”, i.e. (1) inheritance, (2) gift and (3) generation- skipping (grandchildren and beyond). In 2017, they still exist,, but substantial restructuring may await.

Through the decades after 1916, efforts were made to repeal the inheritance tax, most notably by Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury and one of America’s wealthiest citizens. It was defeated then and again in the 1940’s during Franklin Roosevelt’s Administration, who like his cousin Teddy, inherited wealth and a country estate (Sagamore Hill and Hyde Park respectively).

Congressional legislation introduced major changes to the inheritance tax in 1976 and 1987 when first 7% of estates paid taxes and then 11 years later, .03% did. In 2016, 2.6 million Americans died and 5219 or .02% of their estates qualified to pay the Federal Inheritance Tax.  The total revenue it produced was $19.1 Billion. The following table tracks the evolution of America’s “transfer taxes”.

YEAR ESTATE EXEMPTION ESTATE TAX RATE
1997 $600,000 55%
2000 675,000 55%
2002 1 Million 50%
2007 2 Million 45%
2010 5 Million 35%
2013 5.25 Million 40%
2018??

House and Senate Bills

11 or 22 Million (couples/parents) 40%

House bill full repeal 2024

United Kingdom

Those who watched the multiple TV seasons of “Downton Abbey” may recall that Lord Grantham’s constant worry was money: making his large agricultural estate profitable, finding an heir among his relatives, wealthy husbands for his three daughters and maintaining a large domestic staff. His challenge regarding the last became more formidable during and after World War I, when there was a huge exodus of people from domestic service.

The British Parliament recognized early the usefulness of an inheritance tax to pay off deficits and various wars.  In 1796 it passed Death Duty legislation on estates in England and Wales, but interestingly, not Ireland.  An earlier estate tax passed in 1694 was levied only on the deceased’s personal property and was subsequently repealed.

Great Britain’s early inheritance taxation philosophy was to target just the wealthy when national needs arose, and to charge the heirs, not the deceased’s estate.

Returning briefly to Downton Abbey itself, owners of similar enormous country seats started destroying them in the early 20th Century, culminating after World War II, with one in six gone  There were sound reasons to do so: they were expensive to maintain, cheap staffs were no longer available and their heirs didn’t want/couldn’t afford them.

Happily in 1923, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s heirs, the new owners of Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) were able to pay the 500,000 pound Death Duty ($40 million in 2017).  Thus, it remains standing and is owned by the 8th Earl.

In addition to the practical reasons listed above, there was also an important socio-emotional reason for obliterating the structures.  The image the original builders wanted projected to the masses – wealth and power – no longer impressed and intimidated, quite the contrary.

YEAR ESTATE EXEMPTION ESTATE TAX RATE
1694 Tax only on personal property, wives and children exempt 1-2%
1796 Levied temporarily to pay for Napoleanic Wars, then repealed
1799 Income Tax (repealed frequently, reinstated permanently in 1841 10%
1894 Death Duty on capital value of land. Repealed after a government deficit was paid. 8%
1896 Possible to avoid all Death Duties through gifts made up to 1 year prior to death.
1919 Finance Act raised Death Duties on estates worth over 2 million L Sliding scale up to 40%
1945 Labor Party came to power and death duties raised substantially. 80%
1974 Bill passed giving exemptions for bequests given to spouses and charities
2008 Death Duties raised 4 Billion L
2014 Great Recession reduced take to 2.4 Billion L 28,000 estates of which only 5% paid Death Duties
2015 New 100,000 L Death Duty exemption for principal residence
2016 Only pay Death Duty if estate worth more than 325,000
2020-21 Only pay Death Duty if estate worth more than 500,000 or 1 million for married couple.

 Is American Society about to Embrace a Hereditary Aristocracy?

If the House/Senate Reconciliation bill passes, with or without the 2024 Inheritance Tax repeal, the estates that will benefit from the new, higher exemptions will equal .02% of the US population. The legislation also gives these wealthiest Americans substantial income tax reductions as well. Assuming the bill is successful in both Houses, the social structure of the United States will eventually resemble Great Britain’s  circa 1830. All that’s missing are the titles – and who knows?